Enter Dinosaurland

And of course our holiday voyage to the north resulted in a long, tedious return trip. We do a 14-hour drive from New Jersey to Atlanta and it gets pretty dull. This year, however, Jon was able to jazz it up with one last sightseeing stop before the Gaffney Peach.

This time it was a stop on Stonewall Jackson Highway, in White Post, Virginia. Sometimes when we sightsee and take pictures, they end up reminiscent of other pictures, from other places up to thousands of miles away. This was no exception, and some aspects of it looked familiar.

Take this abandoned Catholic Theme park in Waterbury, CT:

Holy Land

Kinda similar, this place in Virginia looked, huh?

At first I was worried that this was a tacky creationist “museum”. We were in rural Virginia, after all. But much to their credit, there was nary a Flood reference to be found, and the descriptive and educational signs next to all the dinosaurs were reasonably accurate and stated clearly that these dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, and not alongside cavemen. There wasn’t a cross anywhere. Well, maybe a few in the gift shop, but that’s forgivable.

It may have started off a little slow. The boring dinosaurs came first. Case in point, protoceratops, the world’s most boring dinosaur. Too boring a ceratopsian to even have horns.
Boring Protoceratops

This is not the first time Jon has been photographed yawning next to a boring, low tech and somewhat crude protoceratops. Jon was also bored by a protoceratops in South Dakota in 2009. Weird how he can’t seem to get away from these guys.

South D Protoceratops

And here is another boring one. Nobody ever says that coelophysis is their favorite dinosaur.


I’m a dinosaur hipster, though. I love coelophysis. I’m too cool to list T. rex or triceratops as my favorite. Cretaceous dinosaurs are way too mainstream, but coelophysis is a Triassic dinosaur, and one of the earliest of all therapods. It was wicked influential, and was an early form of a lineage that later gave rise to the overrated Tyrannosaurus. Really, I just like coelophysis because he was a scrappy little guy who was hugely successful in his time.

Before things started to get interesting, Dinosaurland had to get the inaccurate stuff out of its system. Here’s dimetrodon:

As any paleohipster can lecture you, dimetron was not a dinosaur! It was a synapsid, a mammal-like reptile that was long extinct several million years before the first dinosaur appeared on earth.
So I had to wag my finger and scold at the sign.
Not a dinosaur

No! Not a dinosaur! Neither is moschops:


Again, like dimetrodon, moschops was a synapsid who lived during the Permian period, so 45 million years before the first dinosaur ever existed. No! No! No!

But we moved on, and then it got epic. I even got caught in the crossfire of an EPIC BATTLE!
Epic Battle

For some sauropods, however, the epic battle was over.

Yes, this time T. rex was the Conquering Carnivore:
Conquering Carnivore

Dinosaurland didn’t let a lack of ocean neglect them from showcasing the colossal sea reptiles of the day. Unfortunately, a beached tylosaurus can’t survive for very long out of the water.

Beached Tylosaurus

Did you read a lot of dinosaur books as a kid? I would look at you funny if you said no. Well, did you ever notice in the illustrations that certain dinosaurs were always, always paired in constant combat with specific pre-selected opponents? If you grew up reading dinosaur books, you would get the impression that triceratops never did anything ever except fight tyrannosaurs. Glad to see Dinosaurland kept the tradition alive.
Triceratops with T-rex

My childhood dinosaur books, however, never said anything about T. rex grabbing pterosaurs out of the sky like dogs catching Frisbees. I hope that really happened every now and then during the Cretaceous.

On the wing

After the climactic conquering carnivore, the park gave up on dinosaurs and moved in on post-cretaceous ancient birds and mammals.

The coolest of those birds of course was the terror bird. It was kind of moldy and slimy.
Terror Bird

Also moldy and slimy was the megatherium, although from what I gather about the Pleistocene giant sloth, being moldy and slimy was accurate and the norm for this animal.

The final stretch was the gigantic and horrifying beasts of modern times.

Aiee! A giant cobra!

Eeek! Help me! A gigantopithecus!

Zoiks! A giant praying mantis!
Praying mantis

Highest Evolved

The highest evolved of all insects, huh? Don’t you think eusocial, complex, colony-forming Hymenopterids such as ants and bees might have something to say about that?

No matter. This was the highlight of our long, otherwise monotonous 14-hour driving day. Oh, and there was also this thing.
This thing